RetroFix: Zardi the Eternal Man

Note: RetroFix is a recently added column here at P:R where a writer and an artist team up to redesign and re-imagine public domain heroes and villains from the past. In this edition, artist Jason Reeves and I take on the 1940s Centaur character Zardi the Eternal Man. – Chris Arrant

Who was Zardi the Eternal Man?

FIRST APPEARANCE: Amazing Man Comics #11 (April 1940, Centaur)

Thousands of years ago, Zardi was the prince and ruler of the city of Zandipore. He left the city for a time to learn, practice and eventually master “the intellectual and magical arts,” and when he returned to his homeland he discovered it was no more. In the time since, Zardi has criss-crossed the globe using his abilities fighting evil and slowly his aging process to a crawl. His normal appearance is that of a wizened old man in a tuxedo and top hat, but he also has a mystic cape which gives him the appearance of youth. He carries with him several magical accoutrements such as the aforementioned cape, a medallion, and a magical cane that can become any weapon he desires.

Why Zardi the Eternal Man?

Chris: Looking through the immense list of public domain super-heroes accumulated by some research from Vito, what drew me first to this character was the name: Zardi, The Eternal Man. It sounded like a stage magician purported to be from the mystic east, looking just like David Carradine.

Jason: His initial look is kinda dorky, right?

Chris: Right. But when I began reading his backstory and the few available comics of his that were online, I saw a more modern interpretation coming that was inspired by the pulp comics of his time.

Jason: Yeah. He’s 12,000 yrs. old, he can perform different kinds of magic from different cultures, the items he uses and wears on his person all have magical prowess of their own, and he has a servant/follower, Nogi, that potentially has his own abilities. I just saw in this character a wealth of possibility, the layers you could add to him, to create an interesting, globetrotting, action/adventure style comic. Imagining the things he and Nogi could get into was really enticing to me.

Chris: So after having some brief conversations, I worked up a rough one-sheet about the character as we would develop him.

[Read on after the jump for Chris and Jason’s discussion, as well as the initial sketch and final RetroFix redesign! – Dean Trippe]

Who is Zardi now?

Real Name: Zardi
Superhero Alias: The Eternal Man, Prince Zardi
Occupation: none
Place of Birth: City of Polis First on the planet Zandipore
Citizenship: Exiled citizen of planet Zandipore
Marital Status: Divorced
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 215 lbs.
Eyes: Blue (right), Red (left artificial)
Hair: Black

Brief History: Exiled on Earth since the earliest days of humankind, the alien man known as Zardi has witnessed countless moments of history. Left with only his wits and a few trinkets from his alien homeworld, the seemingly ageless Zardi has secretly guided humanity through the ages in an effort to escape the planet.. but along the way he’s come to form a sort of bond with the human race. A criminal when he was marooned, the passing of years have done something to temper Zardi’s criminal impulses — although you wouldn’t know it from meeting him. What he doesn’t know is he’s not alone. Another of his kind has recently landed on Earth. He uses scientific strategems so far flung they seem like magic.

He’s very acerbic, always alone in a crowd of people. But he is prone to get personally invested – too much some might say – by certain causes, including the chance to escape Earth. Antisocial and misanthropic.

Initial Sketch

Chris: With this in hand, Jason then went to work on the drawing board.

Jason: I was thinking “stylish but not stuffy.” He’s 12,000 yrs old so you assume there’s a huge amount of wisdom and experience there, but I didn’t want him to come off like one of those “old mentor” characters. Y’know, Gandalf the Grey, Dr. Strange, or Morpheus (Matrix). No offense to those guys because I LOVE them all, but I didn’t see him as this stoic guy. Magicians are flashy and theatrical…fun, and I wanted this guy to resemble those traits. I also wanted him to be hip; a guy this old would have his own sense of style, but because his looks remain youthful, he’d have to be savvy enough to assimilate current trends into that style. I thought of Daniel Craig’s Bond with a little Cassidy (Preacher) and Spike (Buffy) thrown in there. I almost made him a blond.

Chris: When I received this from Jason, it was initially jarring to me. Although I had mentally made my own visual improvements to Zardi, Jason actually recreated him from the ground up – essentially, backwards engineering the whole concept, which was great. The top-knot style haircut and the alien but regal breastcoat really put him as a modern-day pulp hero. Jason developed some good ideas about the logistics of his powers, but we’re going to keep that secret in case this becomes an actual comic someday.

Final Redesign

Chris: After Jason and I discussed the initial sketch, we decided to develop it further with some other illustrations showing Zardi through the ages. I’m really happy with how it turned out.

Jason: I think it’s very cool. I think that alongside Constantine there should be more hip, fun, but tarnished Mage characters out there. An action/adventure comic that plays up the spectacle of wizardry, and I think our Zardi fits the bill. This would make an awesome comic (and/or movie…hint, hint Hollywood).

8 comments to “RetroFix: Zardi the Eternal Man”
  1. Very cool. It’s amazing how many great concepts are lost or forgotten, the Remake/Remodel thread on Warren Ellis’ forum go crazy with concepts like this.

    I’m a huge fan of the idea that someone that old would be incredibly stylish – those skull-toes are pretty unique.

  2. I love this column! Seeing how a creative team works, as well as new takes on old heroes is awesome. I really like the way you tried to keep to the original character and update him too. But can anyone try it out?

  3. Awesome redesign. It has a dramatic flair, is interesting visually, and conveys the “Magician” aspect of the character, without cape and top hat.

    Very nicely done.

  4. There needs to be more separation between the vest and the pants. Either the maroon/grey color scheme of the vest should be inverted, or the pants should be a different color.

    The switch from ancient prince to exiled alien criminal seems arbitrary. It strays too far from the character’s roots to be considered a revamp of the concept. It becomes a new concept all together.

    The robot arm seems completely unnecessary; to give him an arbitrary element of futuristic technology dilutes the concept of a character whose primary virtue is his attachment to history. It also unappealingly complicates the character’s genre and strips him of his immediate accessibility. The original, all you have to do is look at him and you get what he’s about — magician, lived a long time. When I look at this guy, I’m totally lost — is he Steampunk? Is he from a retro-future? Is he a robot? Is he a locksmith?

    I don’t know. The whole thing feels awfully over-designed as well.

  5. I’m gonna agree with some of Dylan’s points. The final design doesn’t seem to connect with the accompanying text. The robot arm appears out of nowhere; the robot eye is just as arbitrary; the shoes don’t even seem to relate to anything (beyond its color scheme; looks like he stepped on a kid’s toy car).

    I also agree that the vest should separate from the pants more. If not inverting the color scheme on the vest (might look too “prom-night tux”, though), how about un-tucking his white shirt (assuming it’s short, and doesn’t hang down to his crotch)? He already rolled up his sleeves anyway, so the informality of an un-tucked shirt wouldn’t be out of place.

    That said, I actually really, really like the overall look. Modern day magicians don’t wear the top hat and the swirly cape anymore. This style fits in with current stage theatricality, even if it does unfortunately loss the distinct “magician” look.

    I’m guessing the cane and the watch represent a few of his magical knickknacks (along with a hypnotic, all-seeing monocle and demon-conjuring pipe, perhaps?), but the cybernetic bits don’t scream “technomage” to me. I know the steampunk fashion vibe leans towards some kind of technomagic, but that arm is not very steampunk. Maybe the accompanying text should have sold us more on why he is an alien cyborg?

    Anyway, like I said: I really do like the final look. He’d make a good alternative against the horridly overpowered Doctor Strange (who ends up being laughably hobbled in some way or another, just to allow for some drama and action), and the ludicrously ridiculous mind-rapist Zatanna (talking backwards, really?)! I also like the shout-out to Constantine (those Vertigo magics are where it’s at, lol).

  6. I really like that at his age his look has accumulated several “magical trinkets” or totems of his travels. I also think it would be wise – before slamming the more techno aspects of the redesign – to remember that advanced technology is often perceived as “magical” by those not advanced enough to appreciate how the tech functions. The inverse can also be true. What we see as “tech” may actually be body modification that functions as a conduit to alternative energy sources from outside our dimensional reality! See, it’s fun to let your mind fill in the blanks. Relax kids and appreciate the style, effort, and interest. Thanks so much!

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